Transportation Options for Elderly Individuals

Earlier, we discussed Non-Emergency Medical Transportation and the options you have for getting rides to and from medical appointments. But what about everyday transportation? What can you do if the transportation you normally make use of is no longer a viable option for you? How are you going to continue keeping your independence while keeping up with your daily routine? Asking relatives or friends for help with getting around is a popular option that may be a good option for you, but it may not always be convenient for you or them. 

By thinking about some alternate means of getting around, it can help provide you with some peace of mind, especially if your current circumstances change later on. However, it’s important to know that not every type of transportation we’ll talk about is available in all areas. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the options that might be available to you should you need them in the future:

Volunteer Driver Programs: Many local faith-based and nonprofit organizations often have a network of volunteers who offer flexible transportation for things like shopping, doctors’ appointments, recreation or other activities. Rides that are one-way, round-trip, and multi-stop are often available, though reservations are needed. These services can either be free programs, supported on a donation basis, through membership dues, or at a small cost.

Paratransit Service: Things like public transit, aging organizations, and private agencies give door-to-door or curb-to-curb transportation by using mini-buses or small vans (for less than 25 passengers). Paratransit service usually involves reservations in advance, but still allows for a degree of flexibility and personalization in their scheduling. Curb-to-curb services allows for passenger pick-up and delivery at the curb or roadside; door-to-door services give a higher level of help by picking up passengers at the door of their house and delivering them to the door of their destinations. Both paratransit and van services offer reduced fares for elderly people and those with disabilities, and some may even operate on a donation basis.

Door-through-Door (Escort) Service: These agencies provide drivers or escorts who give personal, hands-on help by assisting passengers through the doors of their residence to their destinations, as needed. This type of service has several levels of help, from opening doors and giving verbal guidance, to physical support. People who have severe physical or mental disabilities often use this service. You should contact your local aging organizations to see if this service is available where you live.

Public Transport/Fixed Route Service: Public transit agencies give bus and rail services along established routes and have set schedules on a non-reservation basis—this is also called “public transportation” or “mass transit.” Lower rate fares and more transportation services are available for elderly people and those with disabilities. More information about routes, schedules, fares, and special services can be obtained through your public transit agency.

Travel Training: Public transit agencies and local aging organizations may give free, hands-on instruction to assist older people and those with disabilities to learn how to travel safely and independently in the public transit systems. Discussion topics include the best routes to take to reach various places, hours of service, cost of trips (including discounts), and how to pay for services.

Taxi Service: Passengers begin this service by calling a dispatcher to ask for a ride between locations the passengers choose. Trips may be scheduled in advance or on the spot. Some taxis are wheelchair accessible and meet ADA standards; if you may need wheelchair accessibility, ask your local taxi providers if they offer this service. In addition to a base charge for each trip, fares are charged per-mile or per-minute and may be payable through a transportation voucher program. You can ask about these transportation vouchers at your Area Agency on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Center, or other social service organizations.